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The Thump is here!

From buying his own supplement to being termed a recluse, Vijender Kumar had endured it all. Indraneel Das reports.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2008 00:23 IST
Indraneel Das

He has got the will. He has got the looks and the hooks. Never flinching, he carries his doesn't-give-a-damn attitude into the ring. This victory will heal many a wound opened in the build up to the Olympics. From buying his own supplement to being termed a recluse, Vijender Kumar had endured it all.

But Vijender is no recluse. He is no quitter, either. The Asian Games bronze medallist has never shied away from adversities. "When it's your day, no one can stop you," is what he believes in.

On Wednesday, he was simply impregnable when he took on Ecuador's Carlos Gongora in the day's last bout. "This is for everyone back home," he hollered.

As the bell ended the last bout, Vijender, who won 9-4, went wild. He took a Tricolour and ran around the stadium. He knew what his victory meant to hundreds of boxers waiting for their chance. "I had to do it for the sport," said Vijender. "I knew I could beat him. So I started off a little cautiously and after accumulating the points, I needed I just tried to hang-in there."

Given the difficult times Vijender went through, his performance here has been phenomenal. Vijender, who recently joined Haryana Police as an inspector, had to rely on his cash awards to buy nutritional supplements. "I never said I did not have money. But nutritional supplements are very expensive…"

Tactical bout

Vijender fought a tactical bout against the Ecuadorean. He had the patience of a monk and the heart of warrior. He would languidly walk towards Gongora, hit him and then would jog around the ring. After the first round, with his measured left hook and an uppercut he managed to get a two-point lead.

In the second, he attacked from the first minute and danced on the canvas. He widened the gap to 4-1. "I knew I was in the lead and I did not want to do anything foolish," he said. Even in the third, he was attacking in the first minute and then withdrawing.

"I had seen the footages and knew what to expect," he said.

"It's not over yet. I have to win the gold," he said. He meets Cuba's Emilio Correa Bayeaux in the semi-final on Friday.

A few good men

Even in his moment of triumph Vijender did not forget the men without whom he would have never won a medal. From his sparring partners in Patiala to the coaches and physio here he remembered them all.

"Coach Fernandes is a crazy man. He just knows one thing in life: boxing. Sometimes we want to avoid him in the dining hall because even there he won't spare us," Vijender said. "And don't forget Heath Mathews, please. He has been instrumental in preparing us for the next bout. He helped us recover early and he along with the coaches helped us prepare mentally. And, of course, (Gurbax) Sandhu sahab.

"Every fight till now has prepared me for this bout. I was new then but it was an experience. Above all let's not forget Akhil and Jitender's fights. They were great and spurred me on."

The forgotten man

Jitender Kumar was struggling to hold back his tears. Despite 11 stitches on his chin, he fought bravely before losing a very close bout to Russia's Georgy Balakshin 11-15. "I had this in the back of my mind," he said. "I knew even a weak punch would open up the cut and that would end my fight."

Coaches Fernandes and Sandhu were all praise for the 20-year-old. "He has the heart and by the next Olympics he will have matured," Fernandes said.